Renal ischaemia-reperfusion (IR) injury is an inevitable consequence of renal transplantation, causing significant graft injury, increasing the risk of rejection and contributing to poor long-term graft outcome. Renal injury is mediated by cytokine and chemokine synthesis, inflammation and oxidative stress resulting from activation of the NF-kappaB pathway. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: We utilized liposomal incorporation of a potent inhibitor of the NF-kappaB pathway, curcumin, to target delivery to renal tubular epithelial and antigen-presenting cells. Liposomes containing curcumin were administered before bilateral renal ischaemia in C57/B6 mice, with subsequent reperfusion. Renal function was assessed from plasma levels of urea and creatinine, 4 and 24 h after reperfusion. Renal tissue was examined for NF-kappaB activity and oxidative stress (histology, immunostaining) and for apoptosis (TUNEL). Cytokines and chemokines were measured by RT-PCR and Western blotting. KEY RESULTS: Liposomal curcumin significantly improved serum creatinine, reduced histological injury and cellular apoptosis and lowered Toll-like receptor-4, heat shock protein-70 and TNF-alpha mRNA expression. Liposomal curcumin also reduced neutrophil infiltration and diminished inflammatory chemokine expression. Curcumin liposomes reduced intracellular superoxide generation and increased superoxide dismutase levels, decreased inducible NOS mRNA expression and 3-nitrotyrosine staining consistent with limitations in nitrosative stress and inhibited renal tubular mRNA and protein expression of thioredoxin-interacting protein. These actions of curcumin were mediated by inhibition of NF-kappaB, MAPK and phospho-S6 ribosomal protein. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Liposomal delivery of curcumin promoted effective, targeted delivery of this non-toxic compound that provided cytoprotection via anti-inflammatory and multiple antioxidant mechanisms following renal IR injury.